NORWALK -- New Canaan High School's girls' soccer team, led by a three-goal effort by Sarah Mannelly, blanked the host Norwalk Bears 8-0 on Tuesday night. The Rams jumped out to an early lead and pulled away in the season-opening contest between FCIAC foes.

The Rams, coming off a campaign in which they went 10-3-2 en route to a run to the Class L state tournament's semifinals, entered into their first test of the campaign full well knowing they should come away victorious with Norwalk coming off a 5-11 season.

"Obviously, any coach's concern is if you're complacent or casual," said New Canaan coach Kirk Bamford, adding that his players did a nice job to fend against a letdown in effort.

It quickly became evident he had no reasons for concern when Mannelly, one of the team's senior captains, netted her hat-trick.

Bamford wanted his team to get off to a strong start to the game and season, and the Rams did just that.

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"I was pleased with the way we started the game. The end result showed a lot of positives," Bamford said.

In addition to Mannelly's scoring barrage, Bamford also enjoyed seeing five other Rams hit the twine. Anna Barea, Lauren Holec, Madzie Carroll, Courtney Overacker and Eileen Dinnie all scored in the rout. Overacker, a freshman, got her goal on a penalty kick.

"That was nice for her to get that," said Bamford. "Everybody put in a good performance out there," Bamford said.

"It feels good. I think we did a good job of attacking and having the hunger for attack. We just came out with confidence," Mannelly said.

The Rams, after effectively putting the game out of reach with a handful of tallies in the first half, wanted to keep testing themselves and stay fresh without making the game overly-lopsided. Bamford moved players into different positions and had his players work on their ball movement throughout the latter stages of the game.

"You try and switch things around a little bit and try things in different formations," Bamford said.

Additionally, reserve players, who may be fighting hard for playing time in varsity action this year, had a chance to put their skills to the test.

"Everybody who was fit to play tonight played significant minutes," Bamford said.

Even with the game going about as well as Bamford could have asked, this was just the first of many to be played this fall, and the Rams will strive to improve from day to day and game to game, the coach said.

"I think we can just keep improving, generally, across the board," Bamford said.

The Rams were scheduled to have a potentially much tougher test in a contest, on the road, with Fairfield Warde on Thursday (after press time). New Canaan plays its first home game on Wednesday, Sept. 21 when Trinity Catholic of Stamford visits for a 4 p.m. start.